Georgia shares her experience of losing her mum to cancer

My name is Georgia Lewis and in February 2019, my mum died of stage four melanoma on ward D603, at the Bristol Haematology and Oncology Centre.

I’m 30 and I’ve witnessed three relatives reach the end of their lives due to cancer. As much as I try to remember them as the best versions of themselves, those happy memories are closely followed by thoughts about the way they died – quickly, tragically, very calmly, slowly. But, in each case, far too soon.

My mum was a proud midwife, who dedicated her career to patient-led care.

On the day my mum was admitted to acute oncology, with severe pain that meant that she couldn’t sit in a chair, there was a shortage of beds. After that, she shared a room and bathroom facilities with three people for her final seven days with us. Each of her roommates were in excruciating pain, required regular assistance from the wonderful nursing staff and had difficulty sleeping – not just because of the physical symptoms of their disease, but the emotional ones too.

For all of them, it was clinical, it was scary and it certainly wasn’t the romantic death my mum had hoped for.

The staff were exceptional but at this stage, when people are no longer relying on medicine, they need comfortable surroundings. And the ward just couldn’t offer that.

As a family, we had to have and process difficult conversations about the likelihood of my mum’s death within earshot of people we really didn’t know. And we were told her disease was probably too advanced to move her to a hospice. 

On her last day, she was bumped up the waiting list for a side room with private en-suite facilities. We suspected this had something to do with her VIP status in the NHS. It was probably also because the doctors and nurses had spotted the signs that things had progressed towards the anticipated outcome.

Every patient deserves to be a VIP.

We all wish cancer didn’t have this much control over our lives, but one thing we can control is how we, as a society, react to it.

That’s why I’m determined to help others as much as I can through the difficult process that is dying.

I’ve started to do that through fundraising. Since I lost my mum, I’ve helped raise over £10,000 for charities close to our hearts, including Above & Beyond. If I can do that when I feel at my absolute worst, imagine what we could all do at our best.

Above & Beyond is especially important to me because my mum trained to be a nurse at the BRI. It was a big part of her life and career. It means I can give back something that she might have done if she was still around.

I believe that, no matter what background they’re from, the people of Bristol feel a sense of duty to take care of people.

Please help however you can.

Above & Beyond supports all patients and services within University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust. We make your donation go as far as possible by using it in the area of greatest need at your hospitals.

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